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Sniffer dogs used during raids

Counterfeit and illicit tobacco seized in Stafford

An ongoing operation to combat the sale of illicit and counterfeit tobacco in Stafford has seen the seizure of 3,280 cigarettes and 6,950g of hand-rolling tobacco.

The seizure, with an estimated street value of £2,087 was made on Thursday 19th September by Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards officers.

The raid at a retail premises and a residential property was supported by Staffordshire Police and specialist dog handling team BWY Canine.

The items were discovered hidden in the flat above the premise, ready to be sold to consumers.

Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards leader Gill Heath said:

“The sale of counterfeit and illicit tobacco is a crime which damages our communities and harms legitimate businesses and we will take action against traders who knowingly sell it.

“This latest raid demonstrates that we take this issue seriously and will target our resources where we know the sale of illegal and sometimes dangerous tobacco and alcohol is going on. We are now able to reinvest money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act too which is good news as we’re helping to keep people safe at no extra cost.”

This latest raid was part of Operation Ember, a local campaign to disrupt criminal activities in Staffordshire.

So far this year Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards team have uncovered around 1,200,000 illegal cigarettes and 12kg of illegal tobacco with an estimated street value of £369,000 in addition to several seizures of illicit alcohol. Gill added:

“The availability of illegal tobacco in Staffordshire is no greater than anywhere else but does present a significant problem. In the UK, it is estimated that about 1 in 10 of all cigarettes and half of all hand-rolling tobacco are not duty paid. The illegal trade in tobacco also has strong links to organised crime and illicit tobacco can have a devastating effect on health.”

Anyone with information about the sale of counterfeit tobacco and cigarettes in Staffordshire should call the Fight the Fakes hotline on 01785 330356 or www.staffordshire.gov.uk/fakes. People can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.uk or 0800 555 111.